Friday, October 14, 2011

First Edition - Book Talk with Katie Allen

Katie Allen is The Bookseller's web editor.

Having wrested control of First Edition back from my colleague Graeme Neill, if only for one week while he is at Frankfurt Book Fair, it behoves me to try and summarise some of what is happening both in the hallowed halls and back in Blighty.

The biggest row this week seems to be surrounding the Man Booker Prize and its new rival The Literature Prize. With barely five days to go until the winner of this year’s Man Booker, a board, headed by spokesperson agent Andrew Kidd, has set up an award to "establish a clear and uncompromising standard of excellence", adding: "For many years this brief was fulfilled by the Booker (latterly the Man Booker) Prize. But as numerous statements by that prize's administrator and this year's judges illustrate, it now prioritises a notion of 'readability' over artistic achievement.”
The crucial word “readability” has ignited debate, particularly on the Bookseller forums, while Man Booker administrator Ion Trewin has said that the idea that he or the prize preferred readability over artistic achievement was "tosh", adding: "I think I have gone on record in the past as saying that I believe in literary excellence and readability—the two should go hand in hand."

Meanwhile W H Smith has followed German booksellers Weltbild and Hugendubel into the e-reader market, announcing today a partnership with Kobo. The Canadian e-specialist also announced a similar deal with French retailer Fnac earlier this week, while the American Booksellers Association is also in talks about launching a device.
WHS' move, which includes the launch of the "first wifi touch-screen e-reader in the UK" later this month, fortuitously follows Bloomsbury executive director Richard Charkin’s call at Frankfurt that: “Essentially a huge proportion of e-book sales goes through the obvious internet retailer. Whilst the others have dabbled with offering e-books without a reader to go with them, they don’t seem to have made any significant inroads to Amazon’s market.”
"You need to be able to offer both [e-books and a device] if you are to take any share of the market," he said.

Rights deals from the fair have so far included a discovery of the lost notebooks of Dracula author Bram Stoker, a biography of Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and the shock move of horror supremo Darren Shan from HC to S&S for new Zom-B series. For all the rights round-ups from the fair you can find electronic versions of our daily magazines here and here.

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